At the beginning of 2010 the National League Rookie of the Year race was supposed to be a showdown between Atlanta’s Jason Heyward and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg. Both rookies have been big stories and have shown flashes of greatness but to only mention Strasburg and Heyward in this year’s Rookie of the Year class would be a disservice to what someday might be one of the best Rookie of Year classes in National League history.
Strasburg went down with an injury and Heyward cooled off in the second half allowing Buster Posey to blast past them in the Rookie of the Year race. Posey leads in the NL rookies in batting and slugging and could catch Heyward in RBI and on base percentage before the end of the season. Buster Posey’s back up on a National League Rookie starting lineup would be Josh Thole of the Mets. Thole is batting .307 in 2010 and is one of the few bright spots in the Mets offense.
Gaby Sanchez is the top rookie first baseman in the National League. Among players that qualify for the league leaders Sanchez leads NL rookies in batting, home runs and RBI. Also at first base there is New York’s Ike Davis. Davis has slowed down greatly in the second half but in the first half Davis was a clutch hitter that batted clean up for the Mets and played a great defensive first base.
Second baseman Neil Walker has been one of the most overlooked rookies in the National League. Pedro Alvarez was the hyped Pirates rookie this year but two other rookies have played better. Walker is batting .298 for the Pirates while Alvarez is struggling.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is another rookie middle infielder that has been underappreciated in 2010. Castro is closing in on 400 at bats and is still maintaining a .309 batting average. Also playing shortstop is Washington’s Ian Desmond. Desmond has stolen many bases and has a solid .279 average. Unfortunately Desmond is running away with the major league lead in errors but Washington is letting him take his lumps in hope that he will improve.
Not only was Pedro Alvarez supposed to be the top Pirate rookie but he was also supposed to be the best third base prospect but both David Freese and Chris Johnson are having better seasons at the hot corner. David Freese originally was the best rookie third baseman in the National League after batting .296 to start the season but went down with an injury. Now Chris Johnson is leading the way for third basemen. Johnson is batting .329 with a .491 slugging percentage.
There are plenty of rookie outfielders contributing to their team. In addition to Jason Heyward there is Mike Stanton. Stanton is not hitting for a good average but in just 250 at bats is close to the rookie lead in home runs. For Stanton to lead rookies in home runs he would have to catch Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin who already has 19 home runs and 49 RBI in 120 games. The Pittsburgh Pirates other rookie giving fans hope is Jose Tabata. Tabata is batting .312 and is tied with Ian Desmond for the rookie lead in stolen bases.
How is this for a starting rotation? Stephen Strasburg is your ace. The number two pitcher is a 12 – 6 pitcher with a 2.33 ERA, Jaime Garcia. The number three starter is Jon Niese, who has posted a 2.63 ERA and 1.07 WHIP since June. In the fourth slot is Mike Leake, a pitcher that started the year 7 – 1 before faltering in the second half. The final spot in the rotation could go to Barry Enright (5 – 2, 2.44 ERA, 1.18 WHIP I 11 starts), Daniel Hudson (5 – 2, 3.03 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 9 starts), Travis Wood (4 – 2, 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 10 starts) or Jhoulys Chacin (7 – 8, 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 15 starts).
Trevor Hoffman has the most saves in Major League Baseball history but not even Hoffman could stop rookie John Axford from taking the closing job. Axford has notched 19 saves or the Brewers. A bullpen of National League rookies would include the likes of Jonny Venters (1.76 ERA and 1.09 WHIP setting up or Billy Wagner), Carlos Monasterios (2.32 ERA and 1.19 WHIP), Hisanori Takahasi (2.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP when he relieves for the Mets), Drew Soren (10 holds and 2 saves as the Nats move on from Matt Capps) and Jenrry Meija (his future is as a starter but the Mets used him as a reliever in 2010.)
2010 National League Rookie Batting Stats at ESPN.com
2010 National League Rookie Pitching Stats at ESPN.com